Florida never ceases to entertain us, we haven’t been blessed with the best weather there all the time but despite that it is definitely one of our favorite vacation destinations. I have made 4 trips to Florida and each time I have been as enthralled about the place as the first time.
The good thing about going to Florida is that you have an option to fly to one of the many fairly big airports (Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Panama City beach) there, so you can choose the one with the cheapest airfare. And every other popular city is just a ~3 hour drive away. More often than not, you may find Fort Lauderdale to be the one with the cheapest airfare.
Here are probably the best places to visit in Florida.
The most populated city in Florida, Miami offers the best of city life with a great ocean view on its side. Night life is Miami is just brilliant, if you don’t mind spending on party scene, then you probably will feel there isn’t a better place than Miami to party on! We had been to a New Year’s Eve party at Nikki Beach, Miami. The atmosphere was amazing and the fact that the party was on a private beach with entertainment shows & our own fireworks display, made it outstanding.
Apart from the party scene, Miami offers a few great beaches. The South beach (nicknamed SoBe) is the most popular of the lot, it has plenty of great restaurants on one side of the beach and the ocean on the other. We had a relaxed brunch there once and then got into the water, a perfect recipe for a fun-filled beach day. Also there is the North Miami beach also known as the “Haulover Beach”. This is the most popular clothing-optional beach in Florida. There was even a trial for a world record in in this beach for skinny dipping in 2009!!!
2. Florida keys:
If you like scuba diving/snorkeling and don’t wanna make expensive trips to Puerto Rico/Carribean/Mexico then the Florida keys are your definite choice! Florida keys are a line of ~40 islands that extend from south of Miami till Key West, they are all connected mainly via US-1 highway also called as the “Overseas Highway”. There are many breathtaking views as we drive along this highway and most of the times this highway, being mainly a single-lane road, has plenty of traffic. The famous diving spots around here are the Biscayne Bay National Park, Key Largo & Marathon. If you want to dive, book your dive in advance as they get sold out during weekends. These are great locations to complete your PADI scuba certifications as they offer a variety of dives here.
3. Key West:
The southernmost inhabited key is Key West, this in fact has the southernmost point in continental USA with Cuba being only 90 miles away. There is a symbolic buoy as well that signifies this. Key West is my most favorite destination in Florida. This small island has plenty to offer to all. The beaches offer a great view of the sea with plenty of water activities like jet skiing, para-sailing, banana boat rides, dolphin view tours, sunset cruises, etc. The island in itself has an old town feel to it and you would definitely love to spend an entire day here. While you are here, you should definitely not miss an evening stroll on Duval street, make sure you end up at the Sunset point in Mallory Square much before sunset, to get a good spot for your sunset pic. This place gets very busy during sunset with many photographers trying to get a good spot for getting their perfect sunset pic. Hundreds of people applaud the sunset making you feel as though you are watching nature’s own show! Mallory square in itself is a great place to spend your evening, there are going to be plenty of street performers and lot of local artists who perform there every evening. Also there are quite a few fine dine-in places there are lots of street pubs, you can carry your drink and walk on the street in Key West. Its legal 🙂
4. Biscayne National Park:
Located near Homestead, this national park is a great place to go snorkeling and get some great pictures of the coral. We got some great pics with just our low-end underwater camera. However, this place does not have a discover Scuba dive, so you can go scuba diving here only if you have a PADI certification. There is also a glass bottom boat ride through which you can get a glimpse of the coral without actually getting into the water.
5. Everglades National Park:
The most popular entrance to this national park is close to Homestead and that’s where we have entered from. There is a nature trail very close to this entrance and just a half mile walk on this trail will make you realize, how many alligators are there in this national park. This is also the only national park in US, which has both alligators as well as crocodiles. Make sure you have your telephoto zoom lens on, if you are lucky you might see an alligator having a snack!
6. Sarasota, Siesta Key Beach, Clearwater beach, Caladesi Island, Honeymoon Island:
Well the best beaches in Florida are in the west of Florida, clear water, pristine white sand and relatively less crowded. Amongst these, Siesta Key is my favorite, just because of lesser crowds. There are ferries that take you to Caladesi Island beach/Honeymoon Island beach, these being secluded give you a great sense of tranquility. If you love beaches, then do not miss these beaches in West Florida, you will definitely not regret it.
Orlando is rightly called the theme park capital of the world, you have every theme park that you can think of here. The Disney World in itself requires at least 2 days if you want to cover all 4 theme parks. Then there is Universal Studios and Sea world as well, depending on you interest, choose the theme parks you want to visit.
Interesting fact: If you happen to drive on I-75 from Fort Lauderdale to Naples, as you pass through Everglades national park area, just look beyond the highway fencing, you will for sure see tons of alligators just basking away to glory!
Ideal time to visit – March – December
Number of Days – 4 full days (Add 2 more days if you want to visit theme parks in Orlando)
Photography Tip – Have a Neutral Density filter with you when you are planning to do some photography at the beach.
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_Mad of D-Mad